This was an amazing year for gamers. With follow-ups to some of the biggest franchises in gaming, like BioShock, GTA, and Zelda, we were all spoiled with great games to play. With next generation consoles arriving we have now begun to see just what the future of gaming is going to bring, but this year was all about the current generation consoles and their final farewell. When writing this list of my games of the year, I tried to not to look at just what brought the biggest impact to gaming but also the ones that kept me playing. With a large majority of people trading-in or selling their old consoles to make way for the next generation, it is games like these that will keep my retro consoles plugged in for years to come.
Game of the Year – Animal Crossing: New Leaf
It was hard for me to go a few days without picking up my 3ds this year. When I look through my play history on the 3DS I see a ton of great titles, but there was one that kept bringing me back. I loved how Animal Crossing always had something for me to do, I never felt like I was wasting time. It had that great balance of time spent playing and reward. Coming back to my town after a couple days and seeing what had happened was always exciting. It was the things that happened behind the scenes of my town that I loved the most though. Getting a new neighbor that was from a friends town, or when my neighbors would start wearing clothes I designed and adopting catch phrases from other neighbors all kept me interested. No it wasn’t the most emotionally moving or best gameplay I have seen this year, but it’s my game of the year because I always enjoyed myself whether it was for 5 minutes or 2 hours.
Game of the Year – By Console
PS3 – The Last of Us
The first time I finished The Last of Us I sat and stared at my tv for a few seconds trying to figure out what had just happened. I couldn’t tell if I felt like shit or if I felt good, but I do know that I felt something. It takes a lot for a narrative in a video game to resonate after the credits roll, but The Last of Us provided one of the strongest stories ever presented in video games. To say the narrative was great was one thing, but the approach to combat and encounters made the experience even better. I never felt like I was doing anything the “right” way and I never felt safe or over powered. This game scared the shit out of me, not just the enemies but the fact that this game is “last” gen and Naughty Dog is just getting started.
Runner-Up : Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
XBOX 360 – GTAV
This wasn’t a hard choice, as it’s the only game I played on my 360 this year. Big, fast, and loud, GTA was hard not to get into and have a good time. I loved the city and the characters but it was the immersion into its world that kept me playing. I wanted to like the multiplayer but a botched launch made me not that excited once it finally worked. Here’s to hoping that Rockstar puts out another Red Dead with this level of polish and scale.
WiiU – The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
This was probably the hardest on the list for me. I absolutely loved Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World is still getting played right now, but Wind Waker was something special. In all honesty, I never played Wind Waker on GameCube, and maybe if I had this might not have topped Mario, but this game is a work of art. The music, art style, and HD visuals all combine with a fantastic Zelda story that is one of the series best.
Runner-Up: Super Mario 3D World
Originally I was going to give this to Persona 4 Golden, but then I realized that came out last year. Still playing that game and loving it though. Hotline Miami is my abusive lover; it beats me up and makes me feel like shit but I keep playing. Its got that hook that games like Geometry Wars and Super Meat Boy have, where you can die and start playing again so quickly that it’s hard to stop. The music is an amazing part of the game, and you should wear some kick ass headphones to hear what the soundtrack has to offer. The PSVita screen and dual-sticks were a great fit for the game and it’s great to pick up and play. Definitely a welcome addition to the growing Vita indie library, and I can’t wait to play the next one.
Runner-Up: Persona 4 Golden (?)
Yeah, I realize my game of the year is a 3DS game but I had to pick something else for this. The 3DS had way too many good games this year and it was constantly in my pocket or within arms reach. Zelda is one of my favorite franchises so I’m kind of biased, but A Link Between Worlds went beyond what I expected to this sequel of the classic SNES title. The changes to the items and dungeon order were great, but that wasn’t what made it such a memorable title. The music in this game is unbelievable. I have seen the Zelda live symphony and frequently look for new arrangements of classic Zelda soundtracks online, but what they have done with this soundtrack is amazing. Taking old favorites and rearranging them with real instruments was stunning and I can’t wait to get the soundtrack when it comes out. 60-FPS was another unexpectedly welcome addition, with every movement on the screen was smooth even with the 3D slider all the way up. It is not the longest of the Zelda games, taking only around 15-hours on my first play through, but it is one of the few games in the franchise I will come back to year after year.
Runner-Up: Pokemon X/Y
I really don’t like a lot of MMO’s and if I had to choose I would say WoW is still my favorite, but it was nice to see someone else get it right this year. Final Fantasy is a great franchise that has seen some pretty shitty releases in the past few years, so I am glad that SquareEnix relaunched FFXIV with A Realm Reborn. The story line and quests were some of the few in MMO history that I can remember actually reading and enjoying. The art style is from one of my favorite SquareEnix artists (who has sadly left the company as of last month) and it makes exploring Eorzea a blast. The job and class system that allowed me to change at will while still playing one main character meant I never felt stuck or like any decision was too permanent. I am hoping that subsequent patches keep the content rolling and can’t wait to try out the game on the PS4 when it launches next year.
Runner-Up: BioShock: Infinite
It was a great year for gaming, one that really showed how much power Nintendo had. I am excited to see what the next generation of consoles will bring next year to gaming, but I don’t doubt Nintendo still has the ability to produce the best games of the year if they continue this trend.
Agree? Disagree? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter @dignifiedbeard. Happy Holidays everyone and hope you get all the games on your list this year.